The government will abolish Serious Case Reviews, it announced yesterday following a review into Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards and multi-agency working.
The review, led by former president of the Association of Children’s Services Alan Wood, recommended that SCRs were scrapped saying that despite guidance to the contrary, the model of serious case reviews has not been able “to overcome the suspicion that its main purpose is to find someone to blame”.
“We need a fundamental change,” said Wood. “Government should discontinue Serious Case Reviews, and establish an independent body at national level to oversee a new national learning framework for inquiries into child deaths and cases where children have experienced serious harm.
“The framework should be predicated on high quality, published, local learning inquiries; the collection and dissemination of local lessons; the capacity to commission and carry out national serious case inquiries; and a requirement to report to the Secretary of State on issues for government derived from local and national inquiries,” he added.
The government confirmed that it agreed with the finding and confirmed that it would replace the current system of SCRs and miscellaneous local reviews with a system of national and local reviews.
The government said the new system should:
- bring greater consistency to public reviews of child protection failures;
- improve the speed and quality of reviews, at local and national levels, including through accrediting authors;
- make sure that reviews which are commissioned are proportionate to the circumstances of the case they are investigating;
- capture and disseminate lessons more effectively, at local and national levels;
- make sure lessons inform practice
The government response confirmed that it would legislate to establish an independent National Panel which would be responsible for commissioning and publishing national reviews and investigate the most serious and/or complex cases relating to children in circumstances which the Panel considers will lead to national learning.
The legislation would also require Local Safeguarding Children Boards (and their successor arrangements) to carry out and publish the lessons from local reviews into cases which relate to a child or children in the local area and which are likely to lead (at least) to local learning.
Wood’s review also found that Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards are “are not sufficiently effective”.
“The limitations of LSCBs in delivering their key objectives have been fully exposed in this review and by the work of Ofsted. There needs to be a much higher degree of confidence that the strategic multi-agency arrangements we make to protect children are fit -for-purpose, consistently reliable and able to ensure children are being protected effectively,” said the review.
The review highlighted that the Local Government Association and Research in Practice found there was a lack of clarity on the role and expectations of an LSCB, and too often that the effectiveness of an LSCB is due to the ability of the Chair.
While LSCBs were essentially predicated on interfamilial child abuse, they are not in a good position to deal effectively with a remit to coordinate services and ensure their effectiveness across a spectrum encompassing child protection, safeguarding and wellbeing, the report said adding that “they have neither the capacity nor resources to do so”.
It recommended that existing arrangements for LSCBs are replaced with a new, more effective statutory framework that sets out the strategic multi-agency arrangements for child protection.
In its response, the government pledged to introduce a stronger but more flexible statutory framework that will support local partners to work together more effectively to protect and safeguard children and young people, embedding improved multi-agency behaviours and practices.
“This framework will set out clear requirements for the key local partners, while allowing them freedom to determine how they organise themselves to meet those requirements and improve outcomes for children locally,” said the government.
The government will place a new requirement on local authorities, the police and the health service, to make arrangements for working together in a local area. There will be an expectation on schools and other relevant agencies involved in the protection of children, to co-operate with the new multi-agency arrangements.
It will also remove the requirement for local areas to have LSCBs with set memberships, often leading to “large and unwieldy boards” and bring forward legislation to underpin the new arrangements.
In cases where local arrangements do not work effectively, the Secretary of State will have the power to intervene in situations where the three key agencies cannot reach an agreement on how they will work together, or where arrangements are otherwise seriously inadequate.